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Rangers seal historic upset against Borussia Dortmund to reach Europa League last 16


To Wolves in 1961, Bayern Munich in 1972, Juventus in 1978, Leeds United in 1992, Parma in 1999 and Paris Saint-Germain in 2001, add Borussia Dortmund 2022. After such a long wait, during which times like these could not have felt further away, Ibrox has another famous European night to add to the list.

Yet, as Rangers triumphed over Borussia Dortmund after a spectacular second leg confirmed passage into the Europa League round of 16, there was no desire to lament a long time between drinks. It was only last week they had turned over Dortmund so comprehensively with a statement 4-2 victory in Germany. And while anxiety filled the air in this grand old stadium as much as glory did for as long as the ball was in play, the manner of the 2-2 result that confirmed victory outright left a clear idea of a winner and a loser.

James Tavernier’s brace – the first and the final goals of the night – secured it. The opener, from the penalty spot, led to ecstasy, the second, at the back post, nothing but relief. In between, Jude Bellingham and Donyell Malen had given Dortmund all the impetus. To find someone in the ground who at 2-1, with the Bundesliga outfit just a goal away from drawing level on aggregate, did not feel Rangers were on the verge of imploding would be to find a liar.

The chattering during the day was not solely down to the temperature in Glasgow which dropped under zero by the 8pm kick-off time. Even before last Thursday at Signal Iduna Park, Borussia Dortmund’s visit to Ibrox was penned in the diary as an event of sizeable note. One with the potential of being the most seismic in this storied club’s recent history.

If that potential felt a little closer to realisation with the two-goal advantage Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side brought home with them, then so too did the jeopardy. For all Rangers’ quality in the first leg, Dortmund were surely not going to produce as poor a performance in the second, even if there were nods to the threats they can pose in the second half of last week’s encounter, beyond the two goals they did manage. Their 6-0 dismantling of Borussia Monchengladbach over the weekend suggested Marco Rose had drawn an immediate reaction out of his players, even if some of the same defensive frailties Rangers exploited were still on show.

Then, of course, there was history. Sure it may have been back in 1999, and that Dortmund side were just two years on from being crowned champions of Europe. But many of those here were also here then, and warning those here who weren’t of a two-goal lead overturned in the second leg of the Uefa Cup third round meeting between these two. The excruciation or elation of the injury time “equaliser” from Fredi Bobic and subsequent penalty shootout dependent on whether you bleed blue or yellow. And with the thread of van Bronckhorst, who missed one of Rangers’ penalties, a repeat was in the back of minds, scribbled in notes or saved in drafts.

Rangers celebrate scoring their second goal

(AFP via Getty Images)

And it was apparent another Dortmund comeback was weighing heavy. Rangers were clearly wary of overcommitting with the comfort blanket of away goals removed, splitting themselves in two groups from the off: the front four, led by Alfredo Morelos, shifting about while the remaining outfield players camped in their own half, only engaging those in luminous yellow shirts when they came within 30 yards of goal.

In turn, the enthusiasm of a boisterous home crowd was tested, with groans greeting speculative long balls, and near-silence for the more precarious moments, such as when Bellingham struck the post in the fourth minute, and the resulting mêlée saw Mats Hummels’ effort kept out by opposition centre-back Calvin Bassey.

There were not stung at first. In fact, they went ahead, as Ryan Kent, the most direct player in the first leg, turned Thomas Meunier in and then out before drawing a lazy foot to win a penalty. James Tavernier, as he did last week, converted with ease in the 22nd minute, and the moments that followed were comfortably Rangers’ most self-assured in the first half.

Alas the manner of the goal that cancelled it out clearly rocked them. Donyell Malen’s through ball from wide right was more in hope than expectation, but it broke into the path of Bellingham via a botched clearance from Connor Goldson, who took a deep breath before side-footing between Allan McGregor and the near post.

And so the corner pocket of Dortmund fans, scale model yellow wall became the chief noisemakers. The home fans took a backward step, their team did the same, and the invitation of more pressure down the middle eventually brought trauma three minutes before halftime. Hummels strode forward unchallenged, Dortmund then worked from right to left. Julian Brandt crossed, Bellingham flicked and Malen prodded beyond into the far corner.

The break came at the right time for Rangers, even if Dortmund were still in charge after the restart, stroking the ball around as confidently as they had before. But reinvigorated, Rangers took a few more risks going forward. Bassey, now at left back, somehow managed to hold off three opponents to cross into the far post. Hummels’ attempted clearance was wayward, allowing Tavernier a go with his own right foot at the far post, which he connected with far better to re-establish the two-goal lead.

It should have been three on 66 minutes, though that was no fault of Rangers’. Morelos dispossessed Emre Can for a clear run on goal before a selfless squaring to Kent who tapped in. For some reason, referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz’s trip to the VAR screen convinced him to overturn to disallow the goal, despite replays showing if there was any questionable contact, it was from Can on Morelos.

The reprieve did little to rouse Dortmund, and served to harden Rangers. You could take the insurance goal, but no one was taking this from them. Indeed as the visitors committed further forward, the only likely addition to the scoreline was against them. Kent’s virtuoso performances could have still resulted in a goal had he not taken one heavy touch as he burst into open field with just the goalkeeper to beat.

But nothing more was needed. Rangers did more than enough and were more than deserving of a famous scalp. Without question, come Friday’s draw, they are already craving another.

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